There are two dangerous extremes in the church today. On one end, there are Christians who are purely performance based. These Christians are still leaving under the Mosaic covenant which was largely based on dos and don’ts. On the other extreme, there are some modern day Christians who have discovered grace and now believe they do not need to do anything because God has already finished everything.
Paul uses Abraham as an example of faith and works. Abraham lived about 2,000 years before Paul wrote Romans 4, demonstrating that the principle of salvation by faith rather than by works was not new in Judaism. Abraham was the first and foremost Hebrew patriarch. He lived 600 years before the Old Covenant was established through Moses. He, therefore, lived long before the law was given and obviously could not have been saved by obedience to it.
In Abraham, Paul gives a flesh and blood illustration of justification by faith. Although rabbinical teaching and popular Jewish belief were contrary to Scripture. They all agreed that Abraham was the O.T. supreme example of a godly righteous man who is acceptable to the Lord.
“What shall we say?” He is challenging what the Rabbis were saying about Abraham.
The majority of Jews in Paul’s day believed that Abraham was made right with God because of his own righteous character. They believed God chose Abraham to be the father of His people Israel because Abraham was the most righteous man on earth during his time.
What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:3
Paul is able to show quite clearly from the Old Testament that Abraham’s acceptance with God came through his faith, not his works, although his works were exemplary.
Far from being the cause of his acceptance with God, Abraham’s lifestyle was the result of his acceptance. God did not declare him righteous because he was so good, but rather Abraham lived a good life because God had freely justified him by faith.
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? James 2:14
James shows us that faith and works are ultimately two sides of the same coin. Three times in this passage (17, 20, 26) he repeats his thesis “faith without works is dead” James is stating clearly that “empty faith” is not true faith, not saving faith, it is nothing more than mouthing words. We are saved by faith, but true faith produces fruit.
Do you value works above faith?
Does faith produce good works in your life?
Father, Thank You for saving me despite all the bad I have done. Thank You that we are saved by faith and not by works. Help me to live a life which demonstrates the reality of you in my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.